Patricia Ramsey - United Pipe & Supply

How do you transition from being an educator to the majority owner of a $115 million a year company? It?s not easy, especially under very trying circumstances. There is a saying: The fighter who is still standing is the winner. Well, Patricia Ramsey and United Pipe & Supply are not only still standing, they are prospering.

United Pipe & Supply was established in 1953 in Eugene, Oregon by Taylor Ramsey, Patricia Ramsey?s father-in-law. It serves the irrigation, water works, pumping, and heating and air conditioning markets.

Patricia?s husband, David Ramsey, grew up in the family business. Over the years, the business flourished and grew to serve other market areas in the Pacific Northwest. Today, United Pipe & Supply has 29 branches in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho. When Taylor Ramsey decided to take a less active role in the business, David was transitioned to run the company. Ultimately, David and his family owned the majority of the company.

After fifteen years of teaching English and counseling students, Patricia Ramsey retired to spend more time with her family and travel with her husband to various company and industry events. Her primary involvement with the company included being a sounding board for David and attending business activities.

David Ramsey was running the business, and we know well, running a business is a full time job. Equally as important, learning and polishing the business skills to enable a company to grow to more than $100 million dollars a year in volume, is a feat unto itself. In addition to running the company, David was also active in the Irrigation Association and had served as a past president of that organization.

In April 2003, while holding an Irrigation Association meeting in the Board Room of United Pipe & Supply, David Ramsey suffered a massive heart attack and died. Patricia, the United Pipe family, and the irrigation industry were stunned at his untimely death. He was only 52.

Suddenly, Patricia was the majority shareholder of United Pipe, a business she had little direct involvement in. This was a very difficult time for the company and for Patricia; uncertainty surrounding what was going to happen to the company caused concern among employees, customers and suppliers.

Those months immediately following David Ramsey?s death were heartbreaking and stressful; however, there was a business that needed to be run and decisions that had to be made. People were contacting her to see if she had any interest in selling the company and employees of United Pipe were being actively recruited by competitors. What should she do? How should she handle it?

Patricia began to sort things out. She no longer had her husband. What was she going to do with the business she owned? Slowly but surely, she began to see where she was going. After a lot of thought, she felt that David would have wanted to see the business continue. He had devoted his life to the company and the employees of United Pipe & Supply were like family.

Her first order of business was to transition the company from a family business to a professionally managed company. Making changes was a very hard thing to do. None- theless, she decided to take the bull by the horns.

Patricia needed to learn and learn fast. She took a crash course in the school of hard knocks. The first thing she learned was that she needed help; she looked around the industry, asked for help and got it. She put together a board of directors of retired CEOs that truly was a working board. They took a hard look at the company and recommended changes that needed to be made if the company was to continue to grow and prosper.

A new president was hired and a culture of empowerment was implemented. After years of looking to the corner office for direction, people in the field were given the authority and held accountable for results.

Although not involved in the day-to-day operations, Patricia Ramsey is very active in the company. When asked what she did in her spare time, Patricia said, ?I?m voraciously reading books on business and I love it. I?m learning so much. I?m spending my time talking to customers, employees and suppliers and listening to their suggestions on how to make United Pipe a better company. My years as an educator and counselor make me a good listener and I?m anxious to learn everything that I can.?

Patricia Ramsey is comfortable enough in her new role to have embarked on an aggressive growth program for the company. ?We have a lot of growing left,? she remarked. ?There are wide open spaces in our market area where we can go. Not only are we planning to grow by opening new stores, we intend to grow by giving better service to our customers and offering the full range of our products.? When asked how she planned to do this, Ramsey replied, ?We have a great team working together to help the contractor. The more we can help the contractor, the more business we?ll do with that contractor. So you see, it?s a win-win situation.?

So, what do you say to a one time educator turned business woman now running a $115 million a year company?

Way to go!